Poem – The Westdene Bus Disaster 1985

By Jenny Santiago (nee Mower)


It was the morning of the 27th of March 1985.

Me a 14 year old girl, with hopes, dreams feeling so alive.

The day was as any school day would be to me and you.

Home time quarter to two


Busses waiting outside the main gate

Hustle and bustle not to be late

The bus ride home meant having a giggle and a teenage chat….

Little did we know that day will determine out fate.


Without any warning or request,

My life changed forever more because of what I saw next!

The yellow bus in front of me lost control and drove into the Westdene Dam.

Until this day I hear that slam.


Pandemonium, confusion, panic and unbelief

The beginning of the darkest grief

I stood next to the dam in a dreamlike state.

Nightmare!!!! I needed to wake!!


Just standing there looking upon,

The darkest of water, knowing my friends are gone.

I remember holding, holding and holding my breath.

But reality sunk in at the sight of death.


Still standing there as if cast in stone

Never in my 14 years did I feel so alone.

My entire being aced, I needed to go!

But my mind and body said NO!


There I stood for hours on end,

Hoping and praying, please! please! let me see just one friend!

This was not to be that fateful day.

Because 42 children passed away


The next morning wherever I looked, I had the sight of an empty desk.

I felt a grief so deep within my chest.

Why does this happen to a 14 year old girl?

My entire being was trapped in a whirl.


42 White coffins the mass funeral would be.

Was this supposed to set me free?

The answer to that is NO!

As white then became a foe.


29 Years later I ask myself, how do you feel?

Will you ever completely heal?

The answer to that I do not know.

As the healing process is painfully slow


My dearest angel friends allow me to walk away.

Never will I forget that forever changing day.

Please set me free,

This to you is my plea.


Forever I will remember you.

But no longer in a state of rue

You have made me and us who we are.

Forever you will be my guidance star.


My friends this is the hardest thing for me to do.

To myself I have to be true.

Today I have to let you go.

I no longer want to be in a state of kayo.


42 Angels up above,

You have taught me the reason of love.

Rest quietly now,

As to you my head I bow.



  1. Claudette van Rensburg

    Please could you let me know how our publication (Fire and Rescue International) can go about republishing this poem?

    How to I go about getting permission?

    Many thanks

  2. Op die Voortrekkerplaas Doornkloof in die Lindley distrik is daar ‘n aangrypende staproete. Op hierdie roete is daar beeldjies geplaas vir Suid- Afrikaanse kinder helde. Die een beeldjie wat mens se hart raak en my elke keer ontroer is die een vir die Westdene busramp. Dankbaar dat hierdie kinder lewens so gedenk word.

  3. Dis op dié dag dat ek hierdie waarheid besef het: Mens kan die kwaliteit van jou lewe bepaal, jou welvaart, jou vriendekring, hoe jy lewe maar nóóit óóit die lengte van jou lewe nie.
    Dít is in die hande van ons Hemelse Vader.
    Ek glo dit is die boodskap wat ons elkeen altyddeur moet besef!

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